Top factors that drive destination diversity in medical tourism
Destination diversity in medical tourism plays a pivotal role in shaping the global healthcare landscape and forming a platform that informs the decisions that propel the travel resolution of medical tourists across oceans and continents to other continents in search of cure, well-being, and overall improved health outcomes.
It is interesting to note that according to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), over 900 million tourists travelled abroad in 2022, more than double the number from 2021 but still 37 per cent less than in 2019. In 2022, international travel returned to its pre-pandemic levels in 63 per cent of the countries in Europe and the Middle East. Among the many different forms of tourism, medical tourism is one of the major global markets that has seen growth in recent years. Each medical tourist brings in three times as much money as a regular tourist does.
Destination diversity in medical tourism highlights the wide range of options medical tourists have when deciding where to receive procedures or treatments. Different countries might provide varying degrees of medical knowledge, technological advancements, cultural compatibility, language assistance, and overall healthcare experiences. Patients can look over various options and choose a location that best suits their medical requirements, preferences, and budget.
Based on studies and surveys, major medical tourism destinations have been identified to be Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, the US, Singapore, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, India, the Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea, and Turkey.
Numerous factors that affect patients’ decisions about where to receive medical care when seeking treatment abroad help to shape the diversity of destinations in medical tourism. Patients favour nations with accredited hospitals, seasoned professionals, and state-of-the-art technology, which plays a major role in the quality of medical facilities and healthcare services.
Specialisation and proficiency in particular medical treatments draw patients seeking world-class care. For example, bone marrow transplants, bariatric and obesity surgery, eye surgery, cardiac surgery, cancer treatment, gynaecological issues, and hip grafting and replacement surgery are some of the most common procedures for which people travel to India.
Patients weigh the costs of treatments, travel, and overall healthcare expenses, with affordability being a key factor. Another area for consideration is the language barrier, as it can impact the choice of destination. Patients are more likely to choose a country where they can easily communicate with healthcare providers and understand the treatment process, medical instructions, and post-operative care.
The ease of travel to a particular destination is essential in medical tourism. Good air connectivity, visa processes, and travel infrastructure can significantly influence the choice of a medical tourism destination.
Medical tourists prefer countries that offer a secure and stable environment for travel and healthcare. This makes a case for the importance of safety and political stability in the destination country. Positive reviews and reputation are also influential, as patients are drawn to destinations with a favourable track record in medical tourism. Moreover, a robust legal and regulatory environment boosts destination attractiveness, as patients seek countries with clear laws and protections for their rights as medical tourists.
Lastly, the presence of medical insurance coverage for international treatments and bilateral agreements between countries can sway medical tourists’ destination decisions. Knowing that their healthcare expenses may be partially or fully covered abroad offers reassurance and convenience, making certain destinations more attractive and accessible for seeking medical treatments.
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